THINKADVISOR: What’s your take on President Biden’s proposal for fixing Social Security?
ALICIA MUNNELL: A step in the right direction. Good ideas but incomplete. There’s nothing wrong with it. It’s just not complete. He wants to have a few benefit enhancements and to increase taxes for people earning over $400,000. But I don’t think his numbers close the full 75-year Social Security [system] shortfall.
The Washington-based federation says life insurers ought to at least answer basic questions, such as whether they will require applicants to use COVID-19 vaccines, what kinds of tests and test results they’ll require and whether and how standards might vary by applicant age.
Forecasters are predicting that U.S. COVID-19 case counts and the U.S. COVID-19 death numbers will continue to improve over the next four weeks.
Most of the forecasters in the COVID-19 Forecast Hub system say weekly new case counts will be somewhere between 350,000 and 450,000 over the next four weeks, compared with an actual number of about 477,000 recorded during the week that ended March 1.
The forecasters are predicting the number of deaths per week will fall to about 6,000 to 8,000, from about 14,000 per week, over that same four-week period.
In a rebuke to the SEC lawsuit, Morningstar issued a press release on Feb. 17, saying that MCR “complied with the regulatory requirements in question” while the SEC’s position is “inconsistent with its own rules and … policies” and that the agency has “overstepped its regulatory limitations by imposing requirements that would regulate the substance of credit rating methodologies.”
In an accompanying position paper, Morningstar said that by questioning MCR’s use of qualitative factors in its legacy CMBS ratings model, the SEC is “attempting to dictate the substance of MCR’s rating methodology,” which it is prohibited to do by law. “If the SEC believes additional rules are required — consistent with the analytical independence of a credit rating agency — the agency should go through the rule-making process, not file an action against MCR.”
But Richard Johnson, director of the Urban Institute’s Program on Retirement Policy, argues that he has a better idea — one that would generate more tax revenue for Social Security benefits without creating a donut hole, he tells ThinkAdvisor in an interview.
“Increase the $142,800 tax max to something like $250,000 today and continue to raise it [based on] average earnings growth,” he recommends.
Part of Johnson’s reasoning is rooted in the presumption that if Social Security were to be perceived as only for low-income earners, political support for the crucial program would be diminished.
Analysts at the Brookings Institution have predicted, based on consumer surveys and demographic data for the period following the 1918 influenza pandemic, that the number of U.S. births could fall by about 300,000 to 500,000 this year, because of health concerns and the effects of the pandemic on the economy.
MetLife has an indication that the Brookings analysts are correct: Enrollees in the group short-term disability plans MetLife runs for employers are filing fewer pregnancy-related STD claims.
MetLife sells employers group STD coverage, and it also administers group STD plans for employers that choose to self-insure.
STD claims for pregnancy-related leave fell 20% between the fourth quarter of 2019 and the fourth quarter of 2020, according to Phil Bruen, a senior vice president for group life and disability product management at MetLife.